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Palestinians bury second arson victim as accusations fly

2 min 44Approximate reading time

The father of a Palestinian toddler killed in a firebomb attack by Jewish extremists last week died from his burns Saturday, and relatives at his funeral denounced Israel for complicity in settler violence.

Thousands of mourners, many waving Palestinian flags, turned out to lay Saad Dawabsha to rest as his flag-draped body was carried by an honour guard of Palestinian security forces.

"It's a crime committed by the settlers but with the agreement of the (Israeli) occupation," relative Anwar Dawabsha told AFP.

"It isn't possible that Israel with all its army and its intelligence services still has no information on this attack," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated Saturday evening a pledge to hunt down the killers.

"I wish to express my deep sorrow at the death of Saad Dawabsha," he wrote.

"Last week, when I visited the family in hospital, I promised to use all the means at our disposal to catch the murderers and bring them to justice, and that is what we are doing."

Netanyahu had condemned the attack as "terrorism in every respect" and ordered a crackdown on Jewish extremism that has seen three people arrested, but no one has so far been accused of carrying out the firebombing.

- 'No clue' -

But Israeli Arab MP Zouheir Bahloul was unimpressed by the pace of the investigation.

"A week has passed and, apart from a few showcase arrests, the security forces have no clue or idea who set this terrible fire," Bahloul, of the main opposition Zionist Union party, said in a statement.

The July 31 attack in the village of Duma that killed 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsha, and also wounded his mother and brother, led to angry Palestinian protests and an international outcry over Israel's failure to curb violence by hardline Jewish settlers.

Saad Dawabsha died early Saturday in hospital in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba where he was being treated for third-degree burns for the past eight days.

The head of the hospital's intensive care unit said his prospects had been slim from the outset.

"With burns covering 80 percent of the body, chances of survival are very, very slim, almost zero," Motti Klein told Israeli public radio.

"He underwent a number of skin grafts but, despite everything, his vital systems collapsed."

Dawabsha's wife, Riham, and four-year-old son Ahmed are still fighting for their lives in another Israeli hospital, near Tel Aviv.

However, a doctor said Ahmed was showing some encouraging signs.

"He is conscious at the moment, communicating with relatives," Marina Rubinstein told the radio.

"Yesterday he was licking ice lollies and was pleased with that."

"His condition is still serious," she added. "He faces a large number of operations and a very long period of hospitalisation."

The Dawabsha family's small brick and cement home was gutted by the fire, and a Jewish Star of David was spray-painted on a wall along with the words "revenge" and "long live the Messiah".

- 'Confront the occupation' -

"Nothing will stop these murderous settler attacks and... we cannot wait until they come into our villages and our homes," Hossam Badran, spokesman of the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas, wrote on Facebook from his base in Qatar Saturday.

"Our people in the West Bank have only one choice: that of open and comprehensive confrontation against the occupation."

Israeli media reported that the army was on alert for possible unrest in the occupied territory and for "Palestinian revenge attacks."

Some of those at the funeral hurled rocks at Israeli border police nearby, who responded with tear gas, but there were no reports of injuries or arrests.

The United Nations called for restraint.

"Political, community and religious leaders on all sides should work together and not allow extremists to escalate the situation and take control of the political agenda," wrote UN peace coordinator Nickolay Mladenov in a statement.

One of the three suspected Jewish extremists taken into custody was detained under regulations normally invoked for Palestinians, which allow indefinite internment without charge.

Earlier Saturday an autopsy was performed on Saad Dawabsha's body at An-Najah University Hospital in city of Nablus, near Duma

A Palestinian official told AFP the pathologist's report would be submitted in evidence to back up a complaint to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

On Monday, the Palestinians submitted a request to the ICC to probe the firebombing and "settler terrorism".

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